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PROBLEM-SOLVING

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The objective of any problem-solving exercise is to encourage participants to learn new skills or apply existing skills to a situation. Numerous different problem-solving activities have been created by different trainers, and, in this section, it is possible to outline only a few of the different approaches.

Methods

Simulations: A simulation, such as the production of a news programme on video, is an excellent way of generating a dynamic problem that requires a creative solution and teamwork. (Simulations were described in more depth earlier in this section.)

Real problems: Some groups may be at a stage of development where they are ready to apply their skills and knowledge to tackle real problems that they face. In this case, the group and/or the facilitator should agree on the definition of the problem and use a variety of techniques, such as brainstorming, critical incident analysis, case studies, small groups, and role play to solve them.

Analysis: An essential part of problem-solving is to analyse the problem itself – what has caused the problem to occur? What are the different “components” of this problem? There are various techniques for facilitating analysis.

One example is SWOC analysis. SWOC stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Constraints – these four headings provide a structured way of reviewing any situation or event. By way of example, if we consider the question “How do we apply our new learning?”, this may generate the following questions.

Strengths: What are we good at doing? What have we gained? Where are we confident?

Weaknesses: Where are we vulnerable? What else do we need to do or learn?

Opportunities: How will we now use what we have learned, gained, or done in the future? Can colleagues or counterparts benefit from what we have learned?

Constraints: What might undermine this learning? What support is required to make sure our plans happen?

Method

This technique works best when participants work in small groups, each with a poster-sized version of the SWOC grid. They then complete each quadrant of the grid with their ideas. The finished versions can then be displayed, compared, and discussed.

Image

Examples of where SWOC analysis might be used effectively

• To review the current and future work of a team, project, or programme.

• To examine actions or proposals that a team or group may be considering.

• To review the decisions made in a case study exercise.

• To review or evaluate the learning.

Audits: This is another form of analysis that can be applied to situations where participants need to understand the various components of a situation or problem before they are able to decide how to deal with it. For example, participants may be asked to provide an audit of the services that they are currently offering to a community. They will develop the audit by checking and analysing their own skills or actions against a given set of criteria.

Examples of where audits might be used effectively

• In analysing what components of a whole programme participants are able to perform effectively.

• In analysing what parts of a programme may not be working.